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Critical Use Nominations

Daniel A. Reifsnyder, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Environment and Sustainable Development
Remarks to the 28th Meeting of the Open Ended Working Group of the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer
Bankok, Thailand
July 8, 2008

In recent years we have made considerable progress in reducing our nominations for critical use exemptions (CUEs) with respect to methyl bromide. Through a mix of regulatory measures, encouragement of alternatives, and the entrepreneurship of farmers trying to find new ways to produce important crops, we have reduced our CUE nomination by 63% from 2005 through 2010 (a decline of over 6,700 tons).

Our 2010 nomination declined by approximately 17% over the previous year – these are major accomplishments given the size and scale of our agricultural sector.

We congratulate other countries that have made similar progress, in particular those who no longer need CUEs. While we have made tremendous progress, the circumstances we face in the United States do not allow us to forego CUEs. Key issues such as the presence of karst geology and shallow water tables in Florida present critical barriers to the adoption of alternatives. Regulatory caps in California also impose limits that prevent the use of alternatives. These limits are put in place for good reasons – to protect human health and welfare and we cannot override them.

The difficulties we face do not appear to be acknowledged by the Methyl Bromide Technical Options Committee (MBTOC). As a result, its recommendation unfairly diverges from our nomination for several key reasons:

  • First, the MBTOC recommendation applies the low end of a newly-revised dose range of a revised presumption. Applying the lowest end of a newly revised range is not prudent in our view and these cuts simply should not be applied.
  • Second, MBTOC has imposed a transition rate on top of the transition rates already applied in our nomination. Again, MBTOC is second guessing the U.S. experts that put together the nomination – experts who are most closely in touch with the barriers to transition.
  • Third, MBTOC is imposing a transition for a new alternative, iodomethane, which currently is registered only through October 2008. Whether this alternative will continue to be registered and what conditions of use may apply in 2010 are unknown. In the past, we have not imposed reductions on the basis of supposition that an alternative will be registered in the future.

In addition to these technical concerns, we find a continuing pattern of procedural irregularities with regard to the MBTOC. Paragraph 10 of Decision IX/9 called for increasing transparency from MBTOC on the meta analysis. The Technical and Economic Assessment Panel’s (TEAP) progress report provided a brief, two sentence description of how the analysis is used that sheds little light on this tool, nor is it consistent with previous impressions we had gained from MBTOC on the use of this analytical tool.

Although we have still not been able to determine how this analysis was performed – despite repeated discussions with the MBTOC -- we believe it includes studies that are not representative of U.S. circumstances, and that it includes results from trials using pesticides that can not legally be used in the United States.

Last year we had extensive discussions on the importance of achieving a robust consensus in the full MBTOC such that all members have the opportunity to discuss and come to agreement on its recommendations. In its report, the TEAP now asserts that MBTOC can hold separate meetings:

  • We do not believe this approach facilitates a robust consensus, nor do we find it responsive to Decision XIX/9 paragraph 9 which emphasized that the Committee should “develop its recommendation in a consensus process that includes full discussion among all available members.”
  • We had understood from TEAP last year that the suggestion of separate meetings was driven by the difficult schedule imposed by an early MOP – with no early MOP this year or next, this factor appears to be no longer relevant.

Last, we note that a decision was taken at the 17th MOP appointing four co-chairs to MBTOC. This decision embodied a carefully balanced compromise among interested Parties. TEAP is now suggesting adding a fifth co-chair to MBTOC, which concerns us because:

  • It significantly changes a previously negotiated and finely balanced decision.
  • We do not see the work of MBTOC increasing, so we question the need to add co-chairs.
  • A fifth co-chair appointment does not appear to be consistent with TEAP’s terms of reference, and as far as we know this many co-chairs is unprecedented for a technical options committee.

For these reasons, we are disturbed by the recommendations on both a substantive and procedural grounds. These recommendations do not adequately reflect the circumstances of our nomination.

We intend to take these issues up in further detail with the MBTOC. If they are not rectified, we will raise them for further consideration at the MOP, which we would do with reluctance in light of the important and already over-extended agenda we will have there.

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